With the abundance of security cameras and personal recording devices in today’s society, privacy litigation is struggling to keep up with the modern world.
There are approximately 450 security cameras spread between the Fort Garry and Bannatyne campuses at the University of Manitoba, according to U of M director of Public Affairs, John Danakas.
Danakas explained that adding and upgrading cameras is an ongoing process, with the Fort Garry tunnels receiving 51 new cameras this past summer alone.
In addition, all new campus buildings will include security cameras.
These security cameras can be found everywhere from entrances to theatres classrooms, with hallways in between, and are monitored 24-7 by security personnel from their office in the Welcome Centre.
Danakas says that, generally, recorded footage is only accessible by security personnel and must meet the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act regulations.
While security cameras may push the boundaries of privacy at times, personal video recordings can outright cross it, as students and staff at Dalhousie University found out this October.
Roughly 30 video recordings of female students and staff, with half-a-dozen clearly shot on the campus were found on the popular video website YouTube. The videos were taken by an individual who had apparently been secretly filming women around Halifax from behind.
“The individual had a specific channel where [they] uploaded all [their] videos with some salacious captioning,” said Charles Crosby, director of Media Relations at Dalhousie University.
Crosby explained that it was a staff member at Dalhousie University who recognized herself in one the videos, bringing it to the attention of campus security, who then notified the Halifax police.
Constable Brian Palmeter of the Halifax Regional Police commented that the investigation was ongoing, but nobody had been apprehended as of press time.
Palmeter explained that there were potentially two suspects, one who did the actual recording and one who uploaded it, but that it was still too early to tell.
Due to the investigation still being in the early stages, it is not yet clear if privacy laws had been broken and if charges can be pressed.
In Manitoba, the Privacy Act outlines what constitutes a violation of privacy and what damages can be awarded for it.
“Canadian privacy laws are a pretty complicated subject,” explained Melanie Bueckert, a Winnipeg lawyer and sessional lecturer in the U of M faculty of law.
“There are privacy laws that apply to governments, public bodies, private corporations, health professionals and all the rest of us.”
Bueckert explained that if privacy is invaded without consent, as outlined in the Privacy Act, then a lawsuit can be filed and the perpetrator sued for damages.
“If you consented to the recording, your lawsuit will not be successful,” says Bueckert.
Bueckert went on to explain that an informal complaint cannot be filed
casually, because this is usually only offered for commercial activities, such as the invasion of privacy between a corporation and their customer, or if the invasion were perpetrated by the government or a public institution.
“The problem with this kind of statutory tort regime is that the onus is on the alleged victim to file and prosecute a lawsuit, which costs money and takes time.”
Not all provinces offer privacy legislation similar to Manitoba’s Privacy Act. Only Newfoundland & Labrador, British Columbia and Saskatchewan have implemented similar legislation.
Bueckert felt that there is a definite gap in existing privacy laws regarding personal privacy invasions between individuals.
“Most of our existing laws were designed to address privacy violations by corporations or governments.”
Bueckert added that there are some provisions in the Criminal Code regarding invasion of privacy between individuals, specifically Section 162 that deals with voyeurism.
Section 162 covers the act of recoding an individual in a sexual light, without consent.
Bueckert explained that this is also the problem with Section 162, because it does not protect against unauthorized recordings that are of a non-sexual nature.
“The person being videotaped must have a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ — so they likely cannot be out in public. [ . . . ] This section does not cover videotaping another person in circumstances that do not have sexual overtones.”